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February 22th, 2014 – Joseph Lamson Meyer

What comes after graduation?


It’s a brisk evening. I’m standing at the front desk of the Hampton Inn in Selinsgrove Pennsylvania, my first job after graduating college. There weren’t many employment prospects in middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania, and even fewer for a wannabe fiction writer. It’s not glamorous, but I’m making $8.50 an hour, I’m earning more than minimum wage, rent is cheap, and I have a girlfriend. So, I should be happy, right? Well, I’m not.


Working three-to-eleven most days means that all other hotel employees are gone two-hours into my shift. The next six, I’m alone, the manager on duty, as the placard beside the front desk reads. Yet the Hampton Hell, as my coworkers dubbed it, had become something of a happy place for me- a haven to hide from reality. The busy shifts wore me down, but the quiet nights were my reprieve. I didn’t love every employee of that place, but the front desk staff were something of a found family to me for a time- complete with a raucous Facebook group-chat hiding under the nose of management.


What comes after graduation?


Early in college, I’d learned that my social anxiety dissipated when I drank. It turns out I was pretty good at drinking too. I could take shots without wincing, funnel beers, and rally friends into Jägger-bombs. I joined a fraternity and found my in to parties every weekend. I made friends, and girls paid attention to me like they never did in high school. I liked the attention, I became known. I was “Joey Bag O’ Donuts,” and everyone knew the nickname. I loved it.


After graduation, drinking wasn’t fun anymore. It was the first time I’d considered I wasn’t the eccentric partier, or loveable fuck-up my peers thought I was. I simply liked being surrounded by people who liked me, and drinking was my tool of navigation into finding the community I so deeply desired. But after graduation, that community was gone, and so was the scaffolding holding me up.


I thought I was grounded by someone I’d met the summer before, someone who’d lived a traumatic past. I thought I could help her. I thought I loved her. But I was being dishonest with myself, I was refusing to address the myriad of problems plaguing our toxic relationship, and I had never properly addressed my own issues. I was young and naïve. We both needed help, but couldn’t offer it to the other. In truth, I desperately needed to learn how to love myself. I think she needed that too. But I couldn’t grow if we’d stayed together.


I resented Susquehanna University for a time, for their Writer’s Institute that boasted prestige while too many student writers went unseen. Maybe it was just me who felt invisible. But SU was my scapegoat—something to blame for my angst. But today, I thank Susquehanna for providing the foundations for me to grow as a human, accepting me into their Creative Writing program after my freshman year, and instructing me inside the classroom and outside it; for teaching me the foundations of becoming a writer. I forged deep friendships at SU, some persisting today. I know I wasn’t the best student, I wanted to write genre fiction, and I was a known partier… But I wanted to be taken seriously too. An unrealistic expectation when I couldn’t even take myself seriously.


What comes after graduation?


Today, my outlook on life is a bit different from a decade ago. About a month following my graduation from Alma College, earning a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with a dual-concentration in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction, I’m pursuing what I’ve always wanted. I have a roadmap. I owe a lot of credit to my graduate school mentors, several of whom believe in me and my future success. This is a new feeling, something I want others to experience. I’ve never been someone high on confidence, yet my mentors have helped me find it; they’re not the only ones.


The end of 2014 was when I left the failing relationship and started a voyage of self-discovery, which included residence in six different states, a dozen or so jobs, and a constant search for meaning. It was a few years into this journey, when the world was collapsing around me, when I was truly lost, that I spent eight-weeks at Hopeway, a North Carolina treatment center for mental illness. Here, I began learning what I needed to find happiness. There are medicines and supplements and mindfulness practices that are said to help with Tourette Syndrome and the plentitude of mental health challenges associated, but there was only ever one thing that could bring me fulfilment. Deep down, I already knew this. I needed to write. I needed to write. I need to write.


It was after my time at Hopeway, that I think my family began to truly understand my passion for stories, and I’m incredibly blessed to have their support in pursuit of my dreams. I was never going to be a businessman like my dad, or a lawyer like my brother. Although my mom’s career as a librarian doesn’t sound half bad. No, I was born to be a writer.


My current partner once said she admired my dedication to writing every week. That was before I decided to apply to an MFA program. I’m thankful to her for her patience as I completed my Master’s Degree, and I appreciate her acceptance of me as I continue to write and pursue publication of my craft, my art. Now that I’ve earned the MFA, I’m still contemplating:


What comes after graduation?


I don’t receive divine premonitions, but I have an idea. I’m a published writer, and have more work accepted for forthcoming publication. I’ve started Freelance Editing, I just moderated my first panel at the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference, and I’m working diligently on two manuscripts: a novel and a collection of short stories. Things are looking bright.


The night after I graduated from Alma College’s MFA in Creative Writing, I broke down in tears with my partner. I can’t even remember how we got there, but in conversing, I said “I’m finally qualified for work that will be meaningful to me.” I cried, repeating this in my head until it sunk in, until I believed it.


What comes after graduation?


Ten years ago, I was “Joey Bag O’ Donuts,” lost, meandering. Today, I’m “Joseph Lamson Meyer,” emerging writer and passionate creative. Like so many before me, in history, fiction, religion- I’ve been embarking on my own ‘Hero’s Journey.’  As Joseph Campbell writes: “The journey of the hero is the courage to seek the depths; the image of creative rebirth; the eternal cycle of change within us; the uncanny discovery that the seeker is the mystery which the seeker seeks to know.”


I don’t know where life will take me next in this artistic journey, but I’m more optimistic about my potential destinations than I’ve ever been before, and I know myself so much better than I did ten years ago—we’re much better friends now.  



Joseph Lamson Meyer is a neurodivergent, multi-genre Writer and Freelance Editor from Durham, North Carolina. He holds a BA in Creative Writing from Susquehanna University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Alma College. His writing appears in the Aquila Review, Half and One Journal and he’s a regular contributor to the Borussia Dortmund blog, Fear the Wall. His friends call him ‘Joey.’

Joey encourages you to learn about the Hopeway Foundation and the life-saving work they do at


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